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Museum showcases history, heart

Parts of an immense past are present in a place filled with laughter, anxious energy and the splashing of pool water stirred by paddling feet.

Faces of the famous and the unfamiliar are memorialized in a tribute called The Canal Street Museum of African American History.

Now in its third year, the display highlights the vast accomplishments of more than 160 people born in an ebony hue.

"The museum tells me about the background of some of our history and why people died for us to get us this far," said Micaela Eaddy, a 14-year-old student at Myrtle Beach Middle School who toured the exhibit Wednesday. "Without those people, we could have been slaves still."

Staff members of the recreation center and at least one student helped assemble what are brief but detailed descriptions of folks who helped paved the way for people of all shades.

"We want people to be aware of the wonderful contributions African-Americans have made to the world," said Docshee "Doc" Moore, supervisor of Canal Street Recreation Center.

Moore said he hopes the museum helps people begin a lifelong journey of learning about people often not found in encyclopedias and textbooks.

"There is definitely still a need for African-American History Month because most of the history is not being taught in school, and one month is not enough time to teach it," Moore said.

On the tops of tables and on freestanding displays, visitors to the museum encounter a variety of information transferred through words, pictures and replica inventions.

The museum, which stretches along the length of two walls leading to the recreation center's swimming pool, pays homage to a varied list of inventors.

One of them is Mary Beatrice Kenner, who created an improved bathroom tissue holder and received U.S. patent 4,354,643 on Oct. 19, 1982.

Another is George T. Sampson. On June 7, 1892, he received an early patent (U.S. patent 476,416) for a clothes dryer.

"Almost everybody knows about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Rosa Parks," Moore said. "However, we also wanted to share information about scientists, doctors, inventors, politicians and the roots of slavery ... from then to the present day of President Obama."

Tanya Dennison, a 14-year-old student at Myrtle Beach Middle School, said learning about black history is American history of which all people should be proud.

"What would we do without the clothes dryer and other everyday things people use?" Tanya said. "Those inventions are very helpful."

There are, however, aspects of the museum that sear the soul, including photographs of lynchings and civil rights demonstrators being attacked by dogs.

These were among the images that touched 9-year-old Zieree Chestnut, a Myrtle Beach Intermediate School student.

"People used to be treated badly," Zieree said.

Terrance Middleton, an 11-year-old Myrtle Beach Intermediate School student, took away the promise for a better future evoked through the display.

"I learned that if you follow your dreams you will succeed," said Terrance, who helped put up the museum.

Changing the world

Carter G. Woodson founded Negro History Week on Feb. 13, 1926.

A son of former slaves, Woodson was a historian, educator and author who earned a doctorate from Harvard University. He launched Negro History Week to bring national recognition to black contributions in America. As a scholar, he discovered there was scarcely any information available.

Woodson chose February because two men he admired - Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln - were both born in that month.

Negro History Week became Black History Month in 1976, as part of the nation's bicentennial.

Black History Month, also known as African-American History Month, is not the only month set aside for national observance of a minority group.

For instance, March is Irish-American Heritage Month and May is Asia/Pacific-American Month.

The Canal Street Museum of African American History will be available for viewing daily during regular recreation center hours. It will be on display until March 6.

"Some people have said we just scratched the surface," Moore said. "But I believe we put a dent in it. I believe people will get a sense of how African-Americans have changed the world."

Recreation center hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 6 p.m. Sunday.